#16.2: Seven Honorary or Honorific Columns (Brick Bases)

Ok, we are still in front of the Basilica Julia at the ORACVLO circle game but facing the Forum Square. Now in front of you running left-to-right (west-to-east) are seven *large* brick bases which we will number left-to-right 1-7, only 6 and 7 actually have a column atop them.

These seven brick bases once all supported columns with honorary statues on top. Who these statues honored is unknown as the dedicatory inscriptions are long gone and nothing written about them survives.

These bases date to the early 300's AD but oddly inside some of them they are built around a core of opus quadratum (interlocking stone blocks or bricks). This opus quadratum core suggests that there were very likely smaller honorific columns here before about 300 AD because the larger bases we see today are concrete that were faced in brick. It would seem(?) that there would be no need/reason (time and expense) to make the very inner central core of interlocking stone blocks(?) only to be covered-over by a larger concrete base?

The bases we see today date to about 303 AD but possibly later. Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) in about 303 AD if you remember rebuilt the Curia after the 283 AD fire and also put five honorific columns on or behind the Rostra.

Now lying near Bases 1-3 there are column sections of Rose-pink Aswan granite, this is the same granite that was used for those five Rostra columns (but in my notes I have Bases 1-4 with column sections but Bases 3 and 4 have the rose-pink granite column sections, so basically eyeball Bases 1-4 for those rose-pink column sections).

Now the brick-stamps used in the seven bases are from the end of Diocletian's reign. But these same stamped bricks are also found in buildings of Emperor Maxentius (306-12) and early in Emperor Constantine's reign (313-33), so there must have been a surplus of these earlier stamped bricks? The 'Oxford Archaeological Guide' suggests it was more likely one of the two later Emperors rather than Diocletian who built these seven Honorific columns.

Now look just past the seventh column, there is a small brick building. That is the remains of another Rostra built in this timeframe.

What we now have if you enter the Forum from the Argiletum (street between the Curia and Basilica Aemila) is a boxed-in Forum Square with seven honorific columns fronting the Basilica Julia. The Argiletum is becoming the major picturesque entrance to the Forum and upon entering you have the Forum Square with a Rostra at each end and seven tall honorific columns in front of the beautiful Basilica Julia. So the first view of the Forum Square for anyone entering from that street is like that of a forecourt for the entire Roman Forum.

Now these bases were brick-faced concrete and the bricks were then marble faced so that the bases looked like solid marble. The marble slabs, inscriptions and also some of the Peperino stone used in the core were later taken by stone scavengers. I'm *assuming* the Peperino stone were the cut stone blocks of 'opus quadratum' in the center?

Notice the half destroyed bases with no centers at Bases 3 and 5 and a bit of #4.

The last two Bases (6 and 7) with the columns on them were erected in the nineteenth Century just for show.

The last column #7 (gray granite) likely doesn't belong here, it was found farther east and has holes in it for metal attachments, possibly for rostra (ship's metal ramming beaks). If so it would be a 'Columna Rostrata' commemorating some naval victory (metal pins that attached these beaks(?) are still embedded in the column). And the #6 column (a phrygian purple shaft) is original except it is on the wrong base and should be on #7.

These bases also had molded plinths around the bottom and molded cornices around the top of the Base.

OK NOW WALK OVER to between Base 1 and 2, the short fence ____ along the Via Sacra will stop you there. Look in-between these two Bases _[x]_+_[x]_ and you will see a small square hole + ( about 1 foot x 1+ foot ) with a roundish stone fragment partially blocking the hole (see this photo). This stone was very likely placed there recently (decades) to keep anyone from accidently stepping into this small hole. You can see a stone molding all around this square hole and the inner side of the molding is recessed. So you have a sunken inner ridge within this square stone molding which would perfectly fit a stone or metal plate that when placed inside covering the hole would be flush with the stone outer molding and also the Forum pavement. Is this an intact Pozzi Rituali minus the covering plate??? An ancient someone went to a lot of work to put this molded square hole into the Forum pavement, so what else could it be?

Mentally transport yourself to atop the Rostra. Now looking 45° to the left towards the modern custodian shack, remember where the first line of Pozzi Rituali was, and then the line of Pozzi Rituali from the Julius Caesar Rostra (just behind you) that connected to them \____ And then later Augustus put in his line of Pozzi Rituali right in front of the Rostra \...... And now we have a row of Pozzi Rituali on the Via Sacra in front of the Basilica Julia \...... |*| to the far right of the Rostra. Could there have been a row of Pozzi Rituali from the Rostra Pozzi connecting the Via Sacra Pozzi rather like we have on the left side \....../|*| ? And this is one of them? Bottom line: Julius Caesar tied his Pozzi into the original Comitium Pozzi in a long straight line and Augustus tied his into those right in front of the Rostra \---- So there is a pattern it seems and this one does line up pretty well with Augustus' and the Via Sacra Pozzi?

Now walk over to in-between Bases 2 and 3, in the middle of them about 2 m from the fence is a Circle Game (see this photo) etched onto the Forum pavement.

[Hopefully my simple diagrams will come out above and not be turned into :-) and :=( type icons] [Hopefully I've converted the ones that were changed into icons back correctly. -Jeff]

For more information and photos, please see Honorary Columns in A Tourist in Rome.

Next: #16.3: Basilica Julia Main Entrance
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